Memory Card With Visuals of Assault on Kerala Woman Actor Accessed Twice: Report
During forensic examination it was found that hash value was different from what was recorded in 2017.
The memory card containing visuals of sexual assault on a Kerala woman actor in 2017 was accessed twice without authorisation and was tampered with, Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) based in Thiruvananthapuram has found.
The FSL report, a copy of which is with The Quint, showed that the memory card was accessed once in January and then in December 2018. The existence of the report came out in a memo filed by the Additional Public Prosecutor, who has asked for it to be produced. The Kerala High Court had ordered for the same on 27 May.
The woman actor was sexually assaulted in a moving vehicle in February 2017 allegedly by a man named ‘Pulsar’ Suni. The assault was allegedly masterminded by popular Malayalam actor Dileep.
Hash Value of Memory Card Found to Be Altered
It is to be noted that ‘Pulsar’ Suni was allegedly told to record a video of the assault by Dileep. Suni had then handed over the memory card to his lawyer, who later handed it over to the Angamaly Magistrate Court.
On 27 February 2017, 10 days after the attack on the survivor, the FSL received three sealed packets that contained two mobiles phones and one memory card.
Eight video recordings were retrieved from the memory card and forensic examination showed that the files were recorded on 17 February 2017 between 10.30 pm and 10.48 pm. Meaning, all the videos were taken on the night of the attack.
Subsequently as directed by the Supreme Court, the memory card was forwarded to FSL again in December 2019 to prepare a cloned copy.
On 10 January 2020, FSL received the memory card to clone it and the memory card along with the cloned copy were returned to the trial court. Dileep meanwhile sent the cloned copy to a forensic lab in Chandigarh. This copy too was returned to the same court after inspection.
During examination, it was found that hash value was different from what was recorded in 2017.
"On examination, it was noticed that the MD-5 hash value of the questioned memory card marked Q3 is changed, while receiving the same the second time," read the report. This indicated that something in card was altered.
It is to be understood that every digital file has a unique hash value, which is a fixed length alphanumeric string. If the hash value of a digital file has changed, it can mean that the file has either been modified, tampered with or that it has been completely replaced.
Memory Card Was Accessed Without Authorisation: Report
The memory card was sealed so as to protect it from any kind of illegal access or tampering. From March 2018 to March 2019 it was stored in the Ernakulam Principal Sessions court. In March 2019, it was transferred to Judge Honey Varghese’s trial court.
The report has also revealed that the memory card was accessed multiple times in 2018 when it was in the custody of two different courts.
The memory card was accessed on 9 January 2018 when it was with the Angamaly Magistrate Court and on 13 December 2018 when it was with the Ernakulam Principal and Sessions court. It is important to note that on both these dates, the courts had not sanctioned permission for access.
However, there is no way to know who or when the card was accessed.
This raises the question – Who accessed these crucial files when the card was in custody of the court and how?
Report Supports Allegations Raised by Survivor, Officer
The recent revelations prove right some of the doubts raised by the investigating officer in a petition filed before the trial court on 4 April 2022. The officer had asked for the memory card to be sent to FSL for further examination to find out whether it was accessed after 18 February 2017 and to furnish a copy of the file properties of all the files and folders of the memory card.
Ernakulam Additional Special Sessions court had dismissed the petition saying that these concerns can be treated only as "ill-conceived and ill-motivated."
Earlier in May, the survivor had approached the Kerala High Court alleging misconduct by the Session's court judge and had asked for the forensic analysis report to be released.
“There was no entry made in the index register regarding the receipt of that report in the court and this fact was not informed to the clerk in charge of the index section,” read the petition.
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